A series of photos posted showcasing India's poverty is being criticised on social media. The photos posted on World Press Photo's Instagram handle has attracted the wrath of netizens. The pictures showing people including malnourished children was clicked by Italian photographer Alessio Mamo. In the photos, people can be seen standing in front of a table of food with their hands over their eyes.
Titled 'Dreaming Food' the award-winning freelance photographer in the photo series focuses on undernourished people from villages from Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Describing the photo, the photographer in the caption says, "I brought with me a table and some fake food, and I told people to dream about some food that they would like to find on their table."
Here are the photos that sparked social media outrage:
These photographs are from Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh two of the poorest states of India. From the series "Dreaming Food", a conceptual project about hunger issue in India. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ My name is Alessio Mamo (@alessio_mamo) an Italian freelance photographer based in Catania, Sicily. In 2008 I began my career in photojournalism focusing on contemporary social, political and economic issues. I extensively cover issues related to refugee displacement and migration starting in Sicily, and extending most recently to the Middle East. I was awarded 2nd prize in the People Singles category of #WPPh2018 and this week I’m taking over World Press Photo's Instagram account. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Despite economic growth, a majority of the Indian population still lives in extreme poverty and disease. Behind India’s new-found economic strength are 300 million poor people who live on less than $1 per day. Government figures may indicate a reduction in poverty. But the truth is, with increasing global food prices, poverty is spreading everywhere like a swarm of locusts. These pictures are taken in rural areas where conditions are worse than in the cities and where close to 70% of India’s population reside today. Statistics show that 2.1 million children under 5 years old die of malnutrition annually. The idea of this project was born after reading the statistics of how much food is thrown away in the West, especially during Christmas time. I brought with me a table and some fake food, and I told people to dream about some food that they would like to find on their table. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #WPPh2018#asia #dreamingfood #india
However, the photos did not go down well with social media users who hit out at the photographer for his lookout on poverty. Many called the photographer 'arrogant', 'ignorant', 'insensitive' and the pictures as a reflection of what west thinks about the rest of the world. People also stated that photos showed irresponsible photojournalism.
And here is how social media users responded:
'I bought with me a table and some fake food and I told people to dream about what food they would like to find on the table.'
— duckrabbit (@duckrabbitblog) July 22, 2018
Wow, this is tasteless and crass. From photographer @alessiomamo: "I brought with me a table and some fake food, and I told people to dream about some food that they would like to find on their table.” https://t.co/kXHa5Tv9rv pic.twitter.com/eeZXUlNMak
— Melissa Lyttle (@melissalyttle) July 22, 2018
As the reproval continued on social media, World Press Photo responded in a Medium post saying, "Being a platform we do not limit photographer's choices beyond the guidelines provided, and we ask the photographers to respond directly to the audience when questions arise." They also shared their guidelines on Twitter.
a new abysmal low in 'misery as art' or is it 'poverty porn'? disgusting! blood boils seeing heartless, repellant people indulge in this & obnoxious organisations like @WorldPressPhoto who encourage such insenstive, exploitative, distasteful acts...@AlessioMamo https://t.co/JWJ1TdrD52
— T. G. Shenoy 🖖 (@theBekku) July 23, 2018
Mamo won the second prize at the World Press Photo of the Year Awards 2018 in the People category for a photo of an 11-year-old victim of a missile explosion in Iraq's Kirkuk. Here is the photo:
This week #WPPh2018 Photo Contest winner @alessio_mamo takes over our Instagram feed! Alessio was awarded 2nd prize in the People Singles category, for this picture of Manal. Check the feed for more: https://t.co/R1k6mFF5IC pic.twitter.com/F9LfxSEDVE
— World Press Photo (@WorldPressPhoto) July 16, 2018
On July 16, World Press Photo had tweeted that Mamo would be taking over their Instagram feed. The organisation selects photographers who regularly handle their account for a certain period of time.
Following the backlash, Mamo said that the photos were not shot with the involvement of World Press Photo but with a local humanitarian organisation. Defending himself in one of the responses, he said, "My intention was exactly to represent in a stereotyped way these Indian landscapes in order to reinforce the concept. This was the idea behind, maybe I did it wrong, or maybe just you don’t like or you think it’s unethical, but the concept was to problematize food waste in front of the hunger in this area of the world."